The setting: A knock-off Kitchen Stadium. But calmer.>"/>
The setting: A knock-off Kitchen Stadium. But calmer.
The elimination challenge: Finalists Brooke and Kristen were required to cook five courses, using scallops for the second course and red snapper for the fourth, blowing a final opportunity to tip a hat toward Seattle. The title was promised to the first chef to win three courses.
The guest stars: The audience of 300 included every past Top Chef winner. "You ready to share your tiara?," Padma Lakshmi asked Stephanie Izard, the sole female Top Chef prior to this season. "It's about time," she responded.
The drama: Very, very little. The episode made clear why folks don't tune in to watch students take final exams: The judges' seriousness, chefs' focus and highly controlled environment added up to poor television.
The triumphs: The judges had nice things to say about nearly all of the dishes, but were especially fond of Kristen's chicken liver mousse and Brooke's seared scallops with salt cod puree. "You did those scallops proud," Lakshmi said.
The debacles: During Watch What Happens Live, Brooke took responsibility for her supporting chefs' performance, but she had the weaker back-up band. Team selection wasn't televised, but Brooke ended up with Stefan, Kuniko and CJ, who egregiously burned the pig ears for a first course salad. "I can't even begin to explain," Emeril Lagasse said as the smoke wafted toward the judges' table.
Last Chance Kitchen survivor Kristen didn't have any qualms about working with Lizzie, Josh and Sheldon. "These are just good people," she said. "No egos." That might have been an understatement: For Sheldon fans, it was hard to watch the creative chef reduced to nodding, "yes, chef" with the resignation of a captured Cool Hand Luke.
The losers: Brook's downfall may have been her vadouvan chicken wings with sumac yogurt tahini, which she concocted as an apology for flubbing fried chicken earlier in the season. "I was not expecting chicken wings," Hugh Acheson said, alluding to the evening's intended sophistication.
The camera weirdly stayed away from the table where the previous winners were seated, but caught the vets' reaction to the wings: "That's ballsy," an unidentified Top Chef said. But Tom Colicchio wasn't sold on an accompanying salad; Kristen's celery root puree with bone marrow won the round. She earned the crown with her next course.
"My chicken was a crucial mistake," Brooke reflected.
The future: Kristen's taking a trip to Korea, Brooke's getting back to work and we get our Wednesday nights back.